Staying home with your kids can be mentally frustrating. This is, perhaps, the hardest part of the whole process.
To be clear, I wasn’t just babysitting. I taught my boys to read and write. Taught them basic Math. Homeschooled them, getting them ready for school as much as possible. I’m convinced it’s a big reason why they’re advanced at school, why they made it into the gifted and talented classes.
But in between lessons were countless hours of Sesame St., Barney, Winnie the Pooh and Clifford the Red Dog. And don’t forget, Veggie Tales and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. And with my boys, I had to watch with them. Because TV time was also cuddle time.
Once school started for both boys, there were many hours to fill. One can only take housecleaning for so long. So I took classes at the nearest community college.
First, I wanted to earn my teaching certificate. As it turned out, taking classes with teachers and school staff was an adventure. And then, after a medical mission trip to Honduras, I decided to work on an Associate degree in Public Health as well. I’m glad I did. I learned a lot during those years.
In a class called Human Health and Disease, we had to study the different sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The lessons included rather graphic pictures and videos. Gag! They were horrible!
I remember turning to a few younger classmates and asking if they learned about STIs in high school.
So I asked why casual sex was still happening.
One of them shrugged, “When you’re in the moment, you don’t think about the consequences.”
I later asked a girl I knew to be a straight A student, level-headed and obviously more mature. She gave me the same answer.
Over the Christmas break, I took my boys to the doctor for their annual check-ups. The doctor brought up the need to have J, my older one, vaccinated against Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the most common virus transmitted through sexual contact in America. Decision time!
I had known I would eventually have to make this decision. And while I am all for vaccinations and a great believer in herd immunity, this was different.
Would allowing my son to get vaccinated against HPV give him the idea it is okay to engage in casual sex before marriage? [Not that casual sex is okay after.] He knows better, but would this undermine our efforts to encourage our son to make the right choice when the time comes? I wasn’t too sure.
As a crisis pregnancy counselor, I’ve sat in a room across many teenagers who grew up in church, and yet found themselves pregnant and contemplating abortion. So if there is anything I learned in the years I’ve been an advocate, it is that growing up in church doesn’t necessarily mean a kid would always make the right choices. Truth is, life has taught me church kids mess up just as much as others.
So what was the right thing to do? The mental back and forth was exhausting. But really, there were a couple of things that stood out as I wrestled with my thoughts.
One, my son will make mistakes. No matter how carefully we teach him about the life choices he will have to make and the consequences he will have to face, he will make mistakes. There are no guarantees, because he is in no way perfect.
Two, I want him protected. He will have no choice but to suffer through the consequences of many of his choices. I want to give him a bit of a cushion to help him bounce back. Call it a bit of grace.
So I agreed to have J vaccinated against HPV. The hubby agreed. It’s one more way we can protect him in the future, even as we continue to talk to him about the realities of STIs and why abstinence is the best option against these.
I realize that once more, some people will consider our decision controversial. For us, however, it’s the right choice.
As parents, we choose to believe our sons will know better.
As parents, we pray they will make the right choices.
And if they do, then all we had to lose was the co-pay.
But we’re also practical.
We know how easy it is to mess up.
Hormones will strike.
Cooler heads won’t prevail.
And there will be lots of regrets the next morning.
Maybe having one less consequence to face will make it easier to get up and start over.
After all, isn’t that something we all want for ourselves?